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How to Care for Pets when Self-Isolating or during Lockdown

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (COVID-19) has now spread worldwide.

With the current measures ramping around the country to help control the spread of the virus, health and government officials are encouraging Australians to limit community transmission and to practice social distancing. So what does this mean exactly and how does staying at home more affect our pets?

What is social distancing?

Social distancing includes ways to stop or slow the spread of infectious diseases. It means less contact between you and other people. To learn more, visit: https://3/coronavirus-covid-19-information-on-social-distancing.pdf

Why is social distancing important?

Authorities will try to slow the speed of the spread to prevent hospitals (essential to care for the sickest people) from getting overloaded. Public gatherings like sports events, concerts, schools and childcare centres are temporarily closed or postponed with the aim of keeping people apart, making it harder for the virus to spread quickly. 
Many businesses are also responding to the changing impacts of COVID19 and encouraging employees to work from home in an effort to contain the spread and to keep their employees safe.

Measures (https://virologydownunder.com/so-you-think-youve-about-to-…/) which slow the peak (1) and “flatten the curve” (2) will delay and spread out the pressure on essential healthcare function and supply chains.

Can pets get Coronavirus or pass it on to me?

Currently there is no evidence
 suggesting that dogs and cats can be a source of infection for COVID-19, or that they can become sick from the COVID-19 virus. COVID-19 is currently spreading through human to human transmission. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This helps protect against various common bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella, that can pass between pets and humans.

What can we do to keep our pet healthy?

Self-isolation has shifted our focus to our homes, where we are now to spend much of our time and where many of our dogs and cats spend their entire lives.
Creating a healthy home and practising good hygiene will go a long way to protect our pets from potential harm. 


Monica Limanto, CEO and co-founder of Petsy has shared with us some simple tips on keeping the household clean to protect your pet whilst self-isolating.


1. Learn how to wash your hands properly

Hand washing (20 seconds minimum) is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Learn how you should wash your hands to stay healthy and don’t forget to wash your hands after handling your pet.
www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html

2. Clean the floors
This is particularly important for dogs and cats because they live in close contact with the ground. 

They sit, play and sleep on it. The average home collects 18kg of dust per year and indoors so it’s important to vacuum and dust frequently. Pets are exposed to all of this dust and when they lick this dust off their fur, they consume it. Keeping the floors clean will help minimise pets ingesting any contaminated dust.

3. Wash your pet’s bedding, food and water bowls and toys


To prevent your pets from getting sick, their key items need to be cleaned regularly and thoroughly.

Consider using pet bowls which are dishwasher safe which makes them easy to clean and disinfect.

Clean your pet beds and blankets weekly by removing as much hair as possible and placing them in a washing machine on a hot cycle. Use a mild or natural detergent that won’t irritate your pet’s skin. 


Soft and hard toys should be cleaned weekly and water and food bowls should be cleaned daily.

4. Consider using non-toxic cleaning products

There are very simple things you can use to clean that are pleasant to use and not dangerous to you or your animal. 


There are all sort of alternative ways of cleaning things - using common, readily available things like vinegar, baking soda or salt which will not leave toxic residues for your dog or cat to walk in and later lick from its feet.

The importance of staying calm

Every person has a unique scent signature that is common to all parts of the body with the majority of this scent coming from the fatty substances secreted by our sebaceous glands. Humans have sweat glands located in areas like the underarms, back of the neck and belly.

These glands are activated by our emotional state which makes it easy for dogs to smell how we are feeling.

When we are afraid of something, we produce chemicals like adrenalin, corticotrophins, ACTH and thirty different hormones that cause the body to make changes to ready us for fight or flight. Our heart rate increases, blood sugar levels rise and blood is diverted to muscles needed for action.

The chemicals we produce provide a unique scent for dogs which enable them to detect the human condition from a distance.

During this time of uncertainty, it’s best to try and stay as calm as possible around our pets as they are able to pick up on our fears and anxieties.

Making sure your pets get enough exercise and socialisation

The brain is the most underused “muscle” in pet dogs. While dogs need appropriate physical exercise, many people forget they need enrichment in their lives through mental and cognitive stimulation too. 

This becomes most evident when people are challenged with their dog's behaviour such as coming home from a long day at work to find a scene of destruction left in their living room.
Left to their own devices, dogs will scavenge, hunt, roam, mate with other dogs, mark things that are important to them and protect things of value. These are not appropriate behaviours in the human world, but lack of appropriate enrichment can lead to the development of stereotypical behaviours such as incessant barking, inappropriate chewing, hyperactivity and intense licking.

For some people, spending an increased amount of time with their pets may lead them to realise that their pet may need some additional mental stimulation and enrichment during the day to alleviate boredom and to help keep them entertained during the day.

There are plenty of activities to keep them occupied and assist in providing physical and mental stimulation for pets for all ages. You may find that the additional entertainment will help to alleviate behavioural issues too.

Training at home

If going outside for their usual walk isn’t an option, the time spent at home can be used to learn new skills or to brush up on existing skills and behaviours. Cues serve an important function:


● Sitting is good for self control
● Lying down is good for relaxing
● Coming when called is an important safety cue
● Polite leash walking means a life of enjoyable walks
● “Wait” means don’t run out the door when I open it
● “Attention” means look at me when I can your name
● “Go potty” teaches your dog to toilet when asked

You can practice new or old tricks in short segments throughout the day. Here's a link to teaching "Dog Mat Training in 3 Simple Steps".

Exercise


Chasing toys and playing nose-driven games like scent work or “go find” games help to engage the ‘seek and reward’ system, an important part of the emotional and behavioural wellbeing of dogs. “Go find” is a game that utilises your pet’s scent abilities and can be played almost anywhere.

It works like hide and seek but with a toy or toys filled with food. You can hide these toys in the house or backyard and send your puppy to “go find” it. Make it easy for your pet at first by letting her see where you hide it and as they get better at it, hide it in places that are harder to find.
Aramis can't decide which Scream Xtreme Treat Bones to play with!
Food puzzles

Instead of feeding your pet from a bowl, you can place the food in a variety of feeding toys and hide them so they have to hunt for their dinner. This is a great way of giving your pet physical and mental stimulation during meal times.


Scratching posts for cats

Cats scratch to exercise, de-stress, and mark their territory. If they don't have good scratching posts, they can become stressed and exhibit negative behaviours, like urinating and scratching inappropriately.


Interactive toys for cats
Interactive play where your cat can chase a wand toy that acts like prey will help cats to indulge in their hunter instincts. 

Similar to the “go find” game for dogs, you can break up your cat’s daily food allotment into smaller sections and hide these around the house so your cat can stalk and hunt for his food. Alternatively, you can place some cat kibble into a puzzle toy to keep their mind occupied.

MEDIA RELEASE, 19th March 2020
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